The Three Green Men: Symmetry Exhibition, National Arts Festival 2017

My solo exhibition – Symmetry – is at the Carinus Arts Centre for the National Arts Festival from 29 June to 9 July 2017. I’ve decided to write a series of posts about the images that are in it so that you can see what it is about.  When you walk into the exhibition you’ll immediately pass by the three green men.  One of them is so striking that I chose it for the poster and advertising.  Here he is.

Äsperöd Green Man Final

It’s an image of a Scots Pine tree (tal in Swedish) deep in the forest near our apartment in Äsperöd, Sweden.  I’ve mirrored it into two and also overlaid the image on itself.  This is the original.

Äsperöd Green Man Original

I took the picture one evening last September (early autumn in Sweden) when the light was soft and diffuse.  That meant I got an image with lots of detail and I could increase the contrast and saturation in post production to give the final picture more impact.

The Green Man is thought to be a pagan symbol of rebirth – that’s according to Wikipedia anyway – and found in architectural motifs right across Europe.  It’s usually a face made of branches, leaves, fruit and vines.  That’s certainly the case with the second green man too.

Göta Green Man Final

This image’s of an oak (ek) tree showing the first autumn colours and I’ve used the identical processes of mirroring and overlay on it.  The foliage is far more dense and so the image is much more richly textured.

Göta Green Man Original

I took the original at lunchtime whilst walking in the nature reserve above the Göta River in Trollhättan.  Once again I made sure that the light was soft and diffuse.  The third green man is a little different.  He’s an artefact made of driftwood in Lars Vilk’s amazing construction called Nimis  located in Skåne.

Nimis Green Man Final

I like the way he just stands there with his arms on his hips.  There’s something oriental, almost samurai-like, about his presence as though he’s covered in armour. Here’s the original picture.  It’s taken with a fish-eye lens from the walkway that tunnels between the towers.

Nimis Green Man Original

It was an overcast, drizzly October day so I managed to get all three images to complement each other nicely in terms of light conditions.

Portals Exhibition – the catalogue

The cost of framed and print only copies are given below.  All images are available in digital format at R250/image.

Trees (costs do not include postage and packaging)

Äsperöd Gnarly (900 x 754) R2200 framed (sold); R1350 print

Äsperöd Gnarly

Äsperöd Gnarly

Äsperöd Gnarly Creature (900 x 800) R2300 framed; R1350 print

Äsperöd Gnarly Creature

Äsperöd Gnarly Creature

Aurajoki Runic (643 x 900) R1900 framed (sold); R1150 print

Aurajoki Runic

Aurajoki Runic

Baobab Temple (900 x 378) R1550 framed; R1150 print

Baobab Temple

Baobab Temple

Vresbok Archway (1000 x 759) R2300 framed; R1350 print

Vresbok Archway

Vresbok Archway

Vresbok Avenue (900 x 753) R2200 framed; R1350 print

Vresbok Avenue

Vresbok Avenue

Designs (costs do not include postage and packaging)

Alice in Wonderland (1000 x 1182) R3000 framed; R1550 print

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland

Blue Arabesque (900 x 933) R2450 framed; R1400 print

Blue Arabesque

Blue Arabesque

Blue Portal (900 x 1166) R2800 framed; R1500 print

Blue Portal

Blue Portal

Endless Filigree (1100 x 1200) R2650 framed; R1600 print

Endless Filigree

Endless Filigree

Endless Natalie (850 x 875) R2300 framed; R1350 print

Endless Natalie

Endless Natalie

Vresbok Spiders (1050 x 1200) R3250 framed; R1600 print

Vresbok Spiders

Vresbok Spiders

Eyes (costs do not include postage and packaging)

Ancient Eyes (900 x 428) R1700 framed; R1200 print

Ancient Eyes

Ancient Eyes

Natalie Feral (950 x 698) R2150 framed; R1300 print

Natalie Feral

Natalie Feral

Natalie Metallica (1200 x 800) R2450 framed; R1300 print

Natalie Metallica

Natalie Metallica

Skies, Fjords (costs do not include postage and packaging)

Aloe Skyscape (800 x 680) R2000 framed (sold); R1250 print

Aloe Skyscape

Aloe Skyscape

Lindesnäs Fjordscape (900 x 404) R1650 framed (sold); R1200 print

Lindesnäs Fjordscape

Lindesnäs Fjordscape

Okapuka Sunset (1000 x 997) R2750 framed; R1550 print

Okapuka Sunset

Okapuka Sunset

Stendörren Dreamscape (1350 x 529) R2200 x R1350

Stendörren Dreamscape

Stendörren Dreamscape

Contact me if you want to place an order.

 

 

 

 

‘A tree sits like an avatar, an embodiment of the immutable, far beyond the pains of man.’

Nearly all of the Portals exhibition pictures are of trees. So I think a word of two of explanation is needed.

Why trees and what is their significance to me?

The great woodworker George Nakashima says in his book The Soul of a Tree:

‘Then, when I am there, feeling at one with the trees and space around me it’s easy to feel the trees with soul.

A tree sits like an avatar, an embodiment of the immutable, far beyond the pains of man.’

Sometimes, when I am alone with them, I feel the trees with soul.  Some trees speak more clearly than others. When I’m in Western Sweden I’ve discovered that there are a lot of Scots Pine (Tall in Swedish).   They’re special trees that usually hide deep in the forests on small rocky outcrops.  Here are a couple of pictures of one of my favourites sitting ‘like an avatar’ in its own space.

Äsperöd Gnarly Tree (Tall)

Äsperöd Gnarly Trees

I’ve visited this particular tree often in the autumn.  At sunset the light dips across the forest catching the branches in a  kaleidoscope of fractured shards.  Here it’s turned into a dark archway: spanning the forest floor.  Inviting you to stand beneath it.

Äsperöd Sunset Archway

But it’s easiest to photograph it when the sky is overcast or just after the sun has set.  That is when you get the images to help uncover its character.  There’s no sharp contrasts to distract the eye and it becomes a giant being with arms reaching high above you.

Äsperöd: Giant Tree Being

Äsperöd Tree Being: Waiting

Or, and this last picture is my favourite, it’s inviting you to pass between the old exposed tree stumps as it waits – poised, balanced, almost expectant – for you to come before it.

‘Giving a work a name is the start of letting it go, making a space to start again.’

Once I’d decided to have an exhibition I was faced with some really difficult decisions.

What would I call it?

What works would I put in it?

What is it trying to show?

Over the weeks and months I’ve made a lot of progress, and naming things – letting them go, making a space to start again – has been a key part of that.

PortalsFoxProgrammeAd

‘Portals’ took a while to emerge as a title.  ‘Follow your imagination’ appeared whilst rewriting (again and again) my 200 word entry for the Festival programme. The funny thing is that once I had the name and the first descriptions I could move on to design what was going to be in the exhibition.  You would think it would be the other way around.

The quote at the top, incidentally, is from Edmund de Waal’s lovely book The White Road, a Pilgrimage of Sorts. I’ll finish this post with more from the book.

I’ve been using shorthand names in the filenames of the images and, eventually, I’ve realised there’s a structure to them I can use for the exhibition.

‘Symmetry’ in the filename almost always means it is a simple symmetrical image that may well be quite abstract.  RFOX8069 symmetry is pretty unimaginative for a filename but I can tell what camera I took the photo with from the RFOX prefix.

RFOX8069symmetry

RFOX8069symmetry

This is one of my forest images taken at Björkensdal in Sweden. The filename is replete with time and date information but it also says that I flipped the image and that it’s a simple symmetrical design.

Björkensdal PA180110 flip symmetry - 2015-10-18 at 13-56-16

Björkensdal PA180110 flip symmetry – 2015-10-18 at 13-56-16

When I use ‘Pattern’ it shows that the image is still symmetrical but I have repeated the original many times to make a pleasing design.  If the filename also uses the words ‘Archways’ then it means I originally joined the trees to make an arch.

Safari Archways Temple Pattern 50%

Safari Archways Temple Pattern 50%

Recently I’ve realised that it’s also possible to make ‘endless patterns’ by folding over the symmetrical image to make the lines flow and connect sinuously.  I’ve used the curves of Natalie’s arms and legs to do this in NatalieEndless10%coolblue.

NatalieEndless10%coolblue

NatalieEndless10%coolblue

So the exhibition’s going to be structured around symmetry, archways, patterns and endless patterns.

To return to the quote.  I’ve nearly finished reading Edmund de Waal’s The White Road and I have enjoyed it a lot. Near the end he describes how he named a ceramic exhibition and the works in it.

“A title is a letter of promise in a pocket.  Sometimes a title brushes alongside a remembered view or is a conversation overheard, a line from an inventory, a favourite melody, a street.  Sometimes it is a provocation; the claiming of a shared space with someone I care about.  Sometimes it is a stone thrown in the opposite direction to distract attention.  Giving a work a name is the start of letting it go, making a space to start again.”

As soon as I read this I knew exactly what he meant.  I’ve got images called Alice in Wonderland, Baobab Temple and Björkensdal Shields and Spiders. Some titles are places, some are people, some are the journey I was on, some are seemingly random and quirky.  All of them, now they are named and appropriately labelled, are Portals, they are imaginary worlds.

 

Inspired by Lux

These pictures were inspired by the Lux exhibition in the grounds of Cragside. It’s a celebration of light and innovation. I loved the sounds of the laurel tree growing (harmonica botanica) spilling around the formal gardens. The glass light vessel was also striking. Here’s some images produced using the filter presets in Snapseed: the light vessel, the wonderful owl carving that’s a permanent feature in the grounds and lastly some of the wonderful textures in the lush vegetation.

Luke and Jeannie looking alike

I am sure every doting grandfather says to his daughter  ‘he looks just like …… at ….. when …..’ but here’s something from the photo archive.  Two photo pairs of Jeannie and Luke at just about the same age.